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July 01, 2020   Return

Our digestive tract contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, comprising the gut microbiota. It is well known that they play a role in our health. If the population composition favours microorganisms that play a role in supporting our digestion and protection from infectious diseases, all is well. What if we do have a direct way of influencing the composition of gut microbiota? Researchers from San Diego University, USA, believe that the answer to this is through the use of viruses that affectbacteria, or prophages. Prophages exist in an inactive state in the gut. There are many types of prophages, each type affecting only one specific type of bacteria. Therefore, what the researchers seek to learn are the triggers that would cause a certain type of prophage to become active and kill a specific type of bacteria. While research is still in its early stages, the possibilities are intriguing indeed. Just imagine: if we have too many of a harmful type of bacteria in the gut, we can consume a type of food that would trigger prophages to kill that bacteria without harming the beneficial ones in the gut. This could be a game-changer in our efforts to cultivate a thriving healthy gut microbiota.

Reference: Boling, L., et al. (2020). Dietary prophage inducers and antimicrobials: toward landscaping the human gut microbiome. Gut Microbes, doi: 10.1080/19490976.2019.1701353